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Post  Jennie on Tue Jun 24, 2008 2:57 pm


07:00 - 24 June 2008

A pharmacist caught with a fleet of stolen vehicles has been jailed for six months.

Harminder Singh Chana built up the independent Tower Pharmacy Group, which had five branches employing 63 staff in Kingswood, Downend, Hotwells and Clifton.

But Bristol Crown Court heard he was also involved in crime, buying stolen cars and vans, and putting his own personalised number plates on them to try to avoid detection.

Chana, 47, of Alma Road, Clifton, admitted handling a Mercedes- Benz car and three Vauxhall Astra vans, knowing or believing them to be stolen, between 1996 and 2005.

Philip Warren, prosecuting, told the court that one of the cars was a Mercedes SL320 convertible, worth 55,750, which had been stolen by thieves who rammed its owner while he was driving in Birmingham in 1996.

Chana bought the vehicle a year later for 15,000 and confessed after his arrest that he had been suspicious about its origins.

But he transferred his personalised number plate - HSC 2 - from an older Mercedes he legitimately owned to the stolen vehicle.

Chana was also found in possession of three Astra vans stolen from the dealership Arriva Bristol, all of which he re-registered with personal plates. Again, he said he had bought them for less than their value and had been suspicious.

Chana was found to have benefited to the tune of 85,296 from the crooked deals - and agreed to pay that figure to the court within two months.

Gilbert Gray, QC, defending, told the court his client had been of hitherto impeccable good character. He said Chana was born in Kenya, came to the UK with other members of the Sikh community and qualified as a pharmacist. After going through an arranged marriage, he devoted himself to working hard to make his pharmacy business successful.

Character witnesses told the judge Chana was a well respected man who was honest and reliable.

Vivien Standeven told the court that the once sharp businessman lost his focus after his wife left him for his best friend. Nicholas Standeven echoed these comments, saying Chana was a successful man but also a caring man who had set up his disabled brother in a specially adapted home.

Stephen Brice, who had worked as Chana's solicitor, described him as a workaholic who was generous and always above board. Jit Panesar told the court Chana was highly respected in the Sikh community and retired police officer Malcolm William-Smith described him as a tolerant and kind employer.

Umraz Khan, a consultant surgeon at Frenchay Hospital, said Chana was level-headed and honest but had exhibited episodes of poor judgment.

Imposing sentence, Judge Julian Lambert told him: "I am very sad to see a man like you before the court for receiving four motor vehicles knowing each was stolen. You could have paid market value. There was no need for any of this.

"I accept this was a tragic loss of judgment by an otherwise honest and hard-working man."


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